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What is comparative negligence?

Not all car accidents are completely clear when it comes to trying to decide who is to blame for the crash. Even if police identify an at-fault driver on an accident report, further litigation and expert examination of witness testimony and other evidence can reveal that multiple drivers were at fault for a particular crash. If an injured driver is seeking a personal injury claim related to such a crash, the legal theory of "comparative negligence" might come into play.

Comparative negligence, for example, might relate to the following kind of situation: Let's say a driver was speeding at 20 miles over the speed limit and another driver runs through a red light. The driver who drove through the red light is clearly at fault for the collision, but in court, it might also be revealed that if the other driver had not been speeding, the associated injuries would have been less severe.

If the speeding driver in the above example tries to pursue a personal injury claim related to his or her injuries, a court might use the theory of comparative negligence to "split" the liability between both drivers. Perhaps the driver who drove through the red light will still be liable; however, his or her liability could be discounted significantly to account for the fact that the speeding driver is also partly to blame.

Under the theory of comparative negligence, potential personal injury recoveries are reduced by the percentage of fault attributable to the parties. This practice is generally referred to as "allocation of fault" or "apportionment of fault."

When issues of comparative negligence arise in a personal injury lawsuit, injured Alabama residents may require expert witness testimony to try and show that comparative negligence does not apply to their situations. Alternatively, they may try to show that their claims for damages should not be discounted to the level that the defense is trying to achieve.

Source: FindLaw, "Comparative negligence," accessed Nov. 01, 2016

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